CCTV helps Oswestry end its ‘Wild West’ image

Oswestry’s CCTV scheme has helped the town rid itself of its “Wild West” image according to one of its operators.

Jim Stafford, a co-ordinator for the town centre scheme, said that the perception of the town had greatly improved since cameras were installed at the start of the millennium.

Speaking to Oswestry Town Council, he said he had seen the image of the town improve drastically since he moved there.

He said: “I came to Oswestry in 1985 to work. Over that time, it has helped to drastically change the character of the town and helped remove the image it had of being a bit of a Wild West town.

“The cameras are not just for anti-social behaviour. Sometimes things are captured when there are no volunteers on duty.

“Very often, CCTV can protect somebody accused of being an offender. CCTV can be a very powerful tool.”

Mr Stafford said the system in the town had helped with many police investigations, including a kidnapping and other violent incidents. He said: “We are very grateful to the town council. This is definitely the most supportive town council on CCTV.

“Apart from just run-of-the-mill incidents, the whole kidnap incident was captured on CCTV and three suspects eventually got 16 years in prison.”

The volunteer-run scheme, launched in 2001, was given a complete overhaul two years ago with better quality recording and wireless cameras.

In February a further bid was submitted to the West Mercia police commissioner for £26,500 to add further cameras.

Mr Stafford told the council they hoped to cover the Smithfield Road car park and the Castlefields area.

He also said that last summer, the camera covering Willow Street came down when the corner of the shop it was fixed on crumbled.

Issues with the new owner of that building meant it could not be replaced, but local businesses in the area have agreed to have cameras to ensure the area is covered.

There are 21 volunteers who give up their time to monitor the cameras. The youngest is 23 while the oldest is 97 and they give up 300 hours a month to the scheme.

Mayor of Oswestry, councillor Paul Milner, said: “I would like to thank the volunteers. Without their great help and giving up their time this would not be possible.

“We are lucky we do not have as much anti-social behaviour in the town as we used to.”

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